Somewhere I Belong

Organizations must practice diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure people feel like they belong. Why? Because business depends on it.

Let’s say you’re an established, well-known, organization in the Tampa Bay area with 100-plus full-time employees and 600-plus part-time employees. For years you’ve been all hands on deck, building, and growing, to become the best. And this year, you hit your big audacious goal. I’m talking about the ultimate achievement. The entire reason your organization exists is to succeed in this area—and you do. 

From the executive team to the janitorial staff, each person in your organization is full of pride. All the decisions made, all the late nights and at all levels. Everyone did their part and it resulted in a win. And now it’s time to reward the organization. It’s bonus time. 

The board room is full of buzz, and excitement, and one person says, “Team, I’m so proud that we made it here. Let’s payout everyone the same percentage of their salary, regardless of title. How about 10%?” They are met with, “Listen, we have to keep costs low. We are still recovering from the global pandemic. We can’t give everyone a bonus. Let’s give all full-time employees 10%, as well as any part-timers who have been with us for 10 years.” The decision is made, the company-wide email is sent. 

You’ve been working part-time in this organization for eight years, volunteering for extra shifts, sometimes working overnight and you open your inbox. You didn’t make the cut.

The next day, you hear that your full-time shift manager received a bonus. They started five years after you and you taught them everything they know. The worst part is, they won’t even acknowledge it with you. Either they’re embarrassed or they are in fear of losing their piece of the pie. You spend all day feeling excluded and wondering why you even work there anymore.

Belonging is feeling a part of something; feeling security, support and worthiness when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion and equity for a member of a certain group or place. The story above is an example of inequity. Perhaps well-intentioned but it’s a “belonging” problem. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “40% of people say they feel isolated at work. U.S. businesses are spending $8 billion each year on diversity, equity and inclusion training that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.” 

Data shows that belonging has a direct correlation to business outcomes like productivity and retention. When we experience feelings of belonging at our workplace, we have higher levels of enthusiasm and engagement.

When we don’t feel like we belong, our performance, and personal lives, suffer. Loyalty is questioned, distrust and resentment breeds, and top performers think twice about going above and beyond. A once strong foundation is crumbling and will continue until it collapses.

One of the best (and I argue easiest) things leaders, and organizations, can do to improve employee engagement, performance and to succeed at business goals is to foster feelings of belonging for all employees. And guess what? The top strategy is 100%, completely free.

Leaders, and organizations, should invite employee feedback before blanket decision-making, take it seriously and be transparent about the outcome. This behavior is a cornerstone of modern, inclusive, companies.

Will your decisions make everyone happy? No. Still, most reasonable people can make peace with decisions if they feel included in the process. ♦

Kim Linton is the owner of 1Light Daring Leadership & Facilitation. Linton works with individuals, and teams, who want to make work modern, courageous and intentional. She is a certified Dare to Leadz facilitator and provides agile, repeatable and profitable solutions for teams. Reach her at and see more at

You May Also Like

The Business Case for DEI

Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, is not only a good thing to do, but also a highly valuable business strategy. While the subject can be sensitive, we should understand

The Etiquette of Trust, or the ‘ABCs’ 

Trust is much desired and, perhaps, missed, the safety and desire to work somewhere in a trusting environment ranks high on most people’s lists when it comes personal, and professional,

Great questions … (and when to ask them)

In working with thousands of sales professionals in hundreds of organizations through the years, our message to each of them has been simple, “You’re a consultant, so behave like one.”

Is a DBA the new MBA? 

In the early 1900s, businesses were growing larger, and more complex, with more employees working in more varied divisions across more geographical boundaries. From this growth, demand for people who

Other Posts

What to read: “The Growth Leader” by Scott K. Edinger 

Scott K. Edinger, based in Tampa, has written three books and more than a hundred articles in Forbes and Harvard Business Review, among other publications. Edinger has worked with chief

Reaching the top: What I learned on my big climb (GUEST COLUMN)

By Jennifer Garbowicz, private client advisor and senior vice president, Bank of America Private Bank In July 2023, I realized a dream and conquered a challenge when I summited Mount

Leadership Tampa Bay announces class of 2024 (PHOTOS)

Leadership Tampa Bay has named its incoming class members for 2024. Leadership Tampa Bay’s mission has been to engage its members with businesses and community leaders to enhance knowledge of

Letter from the Publisher: The Touchdown Dance

I’ve spent years managing large teams, serving on boards, chairing committees and being a “leader” in professional circles.  For the most recent four and a half years, I only had